Despite what wasn’t a pretty game of football, Fleet’s fans got behind their side in the second-half only for extra-time to turn cheers into jeers.
And Kevin Watson told his players to take on board those criticisms from supporters who have travelled up and down the country this season getting behind the squad.
“Our fans since I’ve been at the club have been wonderful,” Watson told BBC Radio Kent’s Matt Cole. “They support, they sing when you’re losing, they sing when you’re winning, they’re always with you. Fans have the best opinions and when they start singing ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’, I go in and tell the boys, listen to that.
“If you don’t want to listen to anyone else, listen to that because they will always give you an honest opinion. As at Torquay when we ran our socks off, got an admirable point, 70-odd supporters all staying behind, no-one leaving early, they all stayed behind and clapped them to a man off the pitch. So listen to those guys.”
Watson was hurt by a Fleet performance he felt didn’t match the preparation they had put into the game.
“You can tell by the length of time it’s taken me to get out of the dressing room what I made of it,” he said. “It’s galling when people don’t listen to what you say in terms of preparation. We’ve watched half an hour of footage of Royston beating Boreham Wood, of Royston beating Wealdstone, one of whom is top of the South, the other one is in the play-offs in our league.
“They’ve beaten Chester, Wealdstone, Boreham Wood and now us. I wanted to go to Wembley. I wanted to win this game, get a good draw, then win the next one and the one after that. As a professional, as a manager, you should want to win every game you play. I wouldn’t mind if the preparation had not been done, so when it has been done and people are told until you’re blue in the face, then you have to start asking questions.”
“We said, do not take [Royston] lightly. You have to match them physically, they will mirror their manager and the way he played the game. They’ll be in your faces, they’ll turn you, they’ll be horrible, they’ll scrap and kick, they’ll fight. And we needed to stand up to it.
“To be fair, it was not the best game, quality was limited and we did stand up to it. I thought we’d be stronger in extra-time. Two errors cost us the game. We had chances in the first half, Josh Umerah’s one cleared off the line, Glash could win it in the 90th minute. But in terms of decision making and doing the right things at the right time, it’s not good enough.
“[It’s frustrating that] the message doesn’t get across that you’ve been working on all week. They’ve been left in no uncertain terms. I’ve asked our lads to play a certain way on this pitch, the ball into the front players but the quality into them wasn’t very good. When I ask people to leave it in good areas, that doesn’t mean smash it 70 yards. I’m very disappointed and what goes on in the dressing room stays there, everyone’s had a bit of a say and now it’s Chorley.”
Picking the Fleet up after this result will be key as Watson’s side face two huge matches in their league dogfight and he hopes his players reflect on what let them down this afternoon.
“I go home, I have a think about decisions I’ve made, substitutions I’ve made, the team I picked, the formation,” he said. “I think I tried every formation under the sun today and it ruins my weekend. I probably won’t show my face until we’re back in training.
“I’ve asked each and every one of them to do what I’m going to do which is have a think about it, what they could have done differently in the game and to put it right. Don’t let it happen again and make yourself better by learning.
“I’m hurt because as a player I tasted a lot of success and I was in dressing rooms that had a lot of success and it hurts me when you prepare as best you can and it’s not carried out. If it hurts them as much as it hurts me today then we’ll be ok but they have to react to it because we cannot carry any passengers anymore.
“That’s the last setback they can afford to have. It’s not four games and a bump in the road anymore that we’ll bounce back from. It’s 13 games where you’ve got to be at it and at it and at it and have the desire to want to stay in this league like I most certainly do.”
The Fleet manager is still awaiting official clearance to play Michael Timlin and he was short of four players today, plus the outgoing Myles Weston.
“The club are dealing with the situation but I’ve got a very good player sitting behind me in a tracksuit who I need on the pitch,” he said. “Josh Payne did wrong, he’s paying his price. Alex Lawless injured for two months, Adam Mekki cup-tied. So there’s four players and Myles Weston, love him to bits, for personal reasons has left us. That’s not ideal but Westy had his reasons of why he needed to move on so that’s down to him.
“I had several chats with Westy and he cited personal reasons that he trusted with me and probably trusted with the club and if someone wants to move on for those reasons and isn’t happy, then you can’t stand in their way. Those reasons will remain between Myles, myself and the club.
“What goes on on the training ground and the pitch on a Saturday or Tuesday is what I deal with, that’s my job. I know we’re working to try and resolve things and I’d love the situation rectified as soon as possible because Tims has been a model pro, he’s a good voice and that’s a player in midfield that we need, so it’s frustrating.”